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Penn State Basketball Player Preview: Jamari Wheeler

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BSD’s Basketball coverage continues with Jamari Wheeler’s preseason preview.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Guard

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 170 pounds

Jamari Wheeler was committed to the Duquesne Dukes for most of the 2017 recruiting year. In March of 2017, former Duqane coach and current Penn State assistant Jim Ferry was relieved of his duties with the Dukes, which resulted in Wheeler decommitting from the program. What also happened was wheeler seeing his stock rise, as programs like Auburn, Seton Hall, and South Florida offered the recently-decommitted recruit, along with Penn State. Ferry wasn’t yet hired at Penn State when Jamari committed to the program, but one would assume the possibility may have been brought up when those conversations happened.

A 3-star prospect out of high school, Jamari has proved to be worth every single star, increasingly improving his ability to defend the court, while working on his shot and ball distribution down the stretch. Wheeler found himself starting a number of games last season, and is expected to be the starter at point guard from the tip this season.

What he brought last year

As mentioned above, Wheeler is a relentless defender, second only to now-departed Josh Reaves last season. Reaves’ steal rate last season was 12th in the country as per Kenpom. Jamari’s was 40th. His assist rate of 21.7% was by far the best on the team last season, especially near the end of the season, when he became more comfortable with his shot. Wheeler was as good a defender as you could expect from the sophomore, and for a team that lost one of its best defenders in recent (and distant) memory, it’s great that another player on the same team was able to perform just as well.

What we need this year

Shooting, of all kinds - For as good a defender Wheeler was last season, he was as much of a liability on offense. His 51.4% free throw rate is not going to cut it in an increased workload, so he needs to get in the gym and hit those free throws at a consistent rate. While no one expects Wheeler to hit 40% from three this season, improving on his 18.2% rate would be imperative if the team wants to spread the floor and make things easy for Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens inside.

Turnovers - If Wheeler can keep his assist rate in check while limiting turnovers (25.8 TORate last season), this offense can find consistent opportunities for the other players. Wheeler’s turnover rate for last season, like his assist rate, was highest on the team. That said, the second highest rate belonged to Rasir Bolton, so turnovers were a big problem last season. This is another area where improvement will go a long way in making sure the Nittany Lions’ offense performs as well as it possibly can.